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Survival of African Culture on an 18th Century Sugar Plantation

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Survival of African Culture on an 18th Century Sugar Plantation

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  • October 2010
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On an 18th century British plantation there was constant battle between slaves and planters, for the slaves needed to keep their cultural forms alive. Harsh treatment of slaves by the planter, often forced slaves to resort to various forms of resistance in order to keep their cultural forms alive. While the slaves of the plantation were able outsmart the planter at times, the planter also devised wicked schemes that made life for slaves extremely difficult.

Cultural forms practiced by African slaves on the plantations included music, dance, festivals, food and religion. Music, to slaves was a form of expression of a people who had hope. Music was expressed in the form of singing and drumming. Although the drum seemed like a simple piece of African art to the planter, it was actually a powerful tool used by the slaves for purposes of communication. Music was extremely crucial for slaves in keeping their culture alive, as a lot of the folk tales were handed down through song from previous generations. Songs spoke of life back in Africa and the many hardships faced by these people.

Besides music, cultural forms were kept alive on the plantation during the period of the slave trade, when imported slaves from Africa shared information about their homeland with the creoles already on the plantation. This was very common because when a newly arrived African was put on the plantation, he or she could educate and refresh the minds of the older slaves of their homeland and rekindle traditions which may have died away due to many years of absence. An instance where this occurred was when newly imported African slaves went through the ‘seasoning’ period, as Claypole (2001) states “They learned to use some of the European language and to live and work in the way enforced by European planters. But at the same time links with the traditions of Africa were strengthened. In some cases they could even make slaves better informed about their homeland.”

Another strategy used...